Human Rights Watch has accused Myanmar of committing “crimes against humanity” in Rakhine State, calling on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to act on the issue by imposing sanctions and an arms embargo against the government.
The Myanmar military “is brutally expelling the Rohingya” from the western state of Rakhine, said James Ross, legal and policy director at the New York-based rights organization on Tuesday.
“The massacres of villagers and mass arson driving people from their homes are all crimes against humanity,” he noted.
The rights group said satellite imagery analysis supported its reports. It also reported crimes of deportations, forced population transfers, murder and attempted murder as well as persecution, rape and other sexual assaults against the Rohingya Muslims.
The rights organization further noted that the UNSC should send a fact-finding mission to investigate the abuses and introduce those responsible to the International Criminal Court.
Myanmar’s government spokesman Zaw Htay, however, rejected the HRW report.
UN Security Council to convene over Myanmar
The report comes as the UN Security Council is due to hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss Myanmar’s brutal crackdown against Rohingya Muslims, which has been described by the international community as an ethnic cleansing campaign.
The meeting was requested by France, Britain, the United States and four other countries. Diplomats said the council would also hear a briefing in the public meeting from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the Rohingya crisis.
Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, have fled an army campaign in Myanmar over the past weeks and crossed into Bangladesh. The recent exodus of Rohingya has brought the number of refugees from Rakhine living in Bangladesh to over 800,000.
The UNSC has already held two meetings behind closed doors since the fresh wave of violence began on August 25. It issued an informal statement earlier this month, condemning the situation in Myanmar and calling for “immediate steps” to end the violence there.
Amnesty: India’s Rohingya need support, not expulsion
Separately on Monday, Amnesty International launched an online campaign, calling for public support to stop a plan by India that allows the deportation of thousands of Rohingya Muslims living across the South Asian country.
The rights group said characterizing Rohingya refugees as illegal immigrants and using the so-called “security threats” to force them to return would expose the persecuted minority to grave risks.
“In terms of India’s position, it is their legal and moral obligation to not allow the expulsion from happening,” Arijit Sen, project manager at Amnesty International India, told Al Jazeera news network.
“They have been in India for a while, taking small steps, living their lives with dignity. If India has any security concerns, they should understand that not all of them can be viewed through one lens,” he added. “These people are in danger back in Myanmar and need support.”
Myanmar defies global outcry
On Monday, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN Hau Do Suan dismissed reports of ethnic cleansing or genocide taking place against Muslims in his country, voicing objections “in the strongest terms” to the countries that used those words to describe the situation in Rakhine State.
At the end of the six-day gathering of world leaders at the General Assembly, the official denounced the “unsubstantiated allegations” made by the world leaders against Myanmar in their speeches to the 193-member world body.
Suan also described as “extremely complex” the issue of Rakhine state and called on UN member states as well as the international community “to see the situation in northern Rakhine objectively and in an unbiased manner.”
Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine have been subject to systematic persecution and violence at the hands of the military and Buddhist mobs for decades.
The minority group has been facing an escalated campaign of horrific violence since late last year, when the military laid siege to Rakhine. There have been widespread reports and eyewitness accounts of killings, rape, indiscriminate shootings at fleeing civilians, and the burning down of houses.
Myanmar’s government claims it is fighting militants in the area, but the UN says the situation is better described as the “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya Muslims, whom the government refuses to recognize as citizens despite the fact that the 1.1-million-strong population has been living in the country for generations.